Legislation that requires commercial airports to disseminate data on runway incursions and delayed flights to the public has passed the State Legislature and is headed for the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Assembly Bill (AB) 1407 was approved August 20th with bipartisan support and the author of the bill, Torrance Assemblyman Ted Lieu feels that this is legislation that was long overdue. Lieu’s Assembly district includes Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and much of the local Argonaut readership area south of Santa Monica.
“AB 1407 will give customers information on runway safety at an airport and provide a mechanism to determine if their flight is one that is frequently delayed,” the assemblyman said in a statement after the bill was approved.
AB 1407 addresses the rise in concerns of airline travelers experiencing record delays, cancellations and diversions. It will provide basic safety information on airport Web sites to customers about frequently delayed flights and runway incursions at California’s major commercial airports.
Runway incursions in recent years have become more frequent. At Los Angeles International Airport alone, more than 24 runway incursions have occurred in the past two years.
Data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics show that the number of delayed flights has nearly doubled in the last decade.
“AB 1407 is a consumer bill,” Lieu told The Argonaut. “Delayed flights not only inconvenience travelers and their families, but result in tens of billions of dollars in lost revenue and productivity.”
Runway safety was also an important component of the bill, said the assemblyman.
“Runway incursions pose a serious threat to the safety of passengers. It is important that travelers have access to this basic in- formation,” Lieu said.
Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said that he could not comment directly on the legislation, but added that there were rules in place that pertained to the two issues that were addressed in Lieu’s bill.
“It’s important for people to know that the federal government has, for years, provided the public with detailed online information on flight delays and runway safety,” Gregor asserted.
Denny Schneider, a Westchester homeowner who is the president of the Alliance for Regional Solution to Airport Congestion, applauded the bill.
“I’m thrilled,” he replied to a question about his thoughts on AB 1407. “It’s about time that someone be held accountable to give us honest answers about what’s really going on [regarding] runway incursions.”
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials note that although the bill was approved by the California Legislature, it does not affect federal agencies.
“While any state legislation could be applicable to local governments, such as airport agencies, it is not applicable to federal agencies such as the FAA,” Gregor pointed out.
The bill will not cover general aviation airports such as Santa Monica Airport, which is municipally-owned. Although airport incursions are not as frequent there as they have been at LAX, there are no safety protection devices at the end of the runways.
The Santa Monica City Council passed an ordinance banning faster airplanes from the airport earlier this year in an effort to protect airport personnel and the residential neighborhoods near the end of the runways, some which lie within 300 feet of the runways.
Santa Monica officials and the FAA are now engaged in a legal battle over the ban in the appellate courts after a lower court overturned the ordinance in April. The appellate court is expected to hear the case this fall.
LAX completed its $333 million South Airfield Improvement Project in June, which reconstructed the South Runway in an effort to enhance airfield safety and reduce the number of runway incursions at the airport.
LAX officials plan to install a $6-million runway stoplight system by the beginning of next year on four taxiway intersections and the inner runway on the north airfield. The south airfield will have runway status lights at three taxiways. The red lights will be embedded in pavement and switch on anytime it’s unsafe for a pilot to cross the runway or take off from the airport.
Due to Schwarzenegger’s threat that he would not sign any new legislation that does not pertain to the budget until the state fiscal crisis is resolved, Lieu indicated that he would hold AB 1407 in committee until the budget is passed.
“That way, we can protect this bill from a possible veto by the governor,” said Lieu.